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From days to seconds – Manchester startup delivers world’s first in manufacturing efficiency

  • Using a mix of in-house technology, award-winning cloud manufacturing startup Fractory has removed the need for manufacturing drawings when quoting for tube cutting jobs
  • Requests for quotes can now be completed in seconds, as opposed to the established time frame of days
  • Fractory believe their latest innovation will cut procurement resources and speed up manufacturing times for their customers

Fractory recently announced that it has developed a first-in-the-world solution, becoming the only platform capable of instantly processing 3D models for pricing tube cutting without the need for manufacturing drawings.

This solution reduces the turnaround time on tube cutting, which traditionally involves sending out requests for quotes (RFQs) with drawings, from days down to seconds.

Over the past six months, Manchester-based manufacturing startup Fractory has established itself as one of the leading cloud manufacturing platforms in the world.

Martin Vares, founder and CEO of Fractory

“There is only one competitor with similar capabilities. But their pricing is quite robust and does not really correlate to market prices. On top of that, they are asking for an accompanying manufacturing drawing. We are seeing how our customers are gradually letting go of making traditional drawings to fully capitalise on the time-saving possibilities,” says Martin Vares, the CEO of Fractory and recent honouree in the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Although powerful CAD software provide a variety of possibilities, it is not possible to utilise them in cloud-based solutions. Using APIs, it would be possible to read the dimensions and cutting contours but converting the info to a production price is not currently possible because of a lack of necessary pieces. Thus, the development was done in-house, making use of all the publicly available information to speed up the process

“Traditionally, the manufacturing engineer has to determine the profiles and cutting contours to calculate cutting prices for tubes. They also have to account for the material costs. It all takes time, especially when there are large quantities of unique parts. By combining different technologies, we are able to solve the same problem in a matter of seconds,” says Fractory’s CTO Rein Torm.

Cloud manufacturing has been touted as one of the major forces to look out for by many industry experts, including Forbes columnists and independent researchers. While many of these companies are offering limited functionality in the form of flat sheet metal laser cutting, creating waves in corporate circles needs more automation.

“Our focus is on alleviating the procurement burden of engineering companies. Over 20 local manufacturing partners from the UK have joined us to offer a wide range of capabilities. Pricing 3D models for both bent and cut sheet metal as well as cut tubes, we can cover for the needs of most engineering projects, significantly reducing the time spent on making the step from CAD files to ready-made parts,” says Vares, explaining the reasoning behind the innovation.

Fractory team celebrating winning ‘best use of tech’ at the 2019 British Chamber of Commerce Awards – pictured left to right: Jamil Nathoo from Dell, who sponsored the award for Best Use of Tech, Villem Hion – Fractory’s supply chain manager, Rein Torm, Chief Technology Officer & Martin Vares, CEO

The latest fully-automated service positions Fractory slightly ahead of Germany’s Laserhub in the European market. Although the services on offer are pretty much identical, the difference comes from the level of automation.

The leading cloud manufacturing platforms Xometry and 3DHubs are both based in the US but are largely focusing on 3D printing and CNC machining. One of the latest developments saw Xometry acquire Shift, an European platform focusing on sheet metal fabrication, to kickstart their campaign for European conquest.

“To be honest, we are not afraid of the US giant entering the European market. Scientific research about the future of the industry points in a single direction – cloud manufacturing. Today, we are all in the early stages, trying to prove our effectiveness to the traditional industry. Most of the engineers have never heard of such possibilities, so our first mission is educating the sector, rather than competing with each other,” comments Fractory’s CTO on the state of the market.

Although the focus is on ongoing processes, future goals are always on the horizon. These include ways to stand out from direct competition in the long run.

“We are concentrating on a single task at a time to keep moving towards a full spectrum of metal fabrication services to cater to all the basic needs of engineers. This strategy has proven to work, as we are able to compete with the market in terms of prices, while adding the perk of saving time.

“When looking at the competition, a trained eye notices the level of automation and the role of manual labour. Also, there are plenty of simplified algorithms that cannot provide accurate pricing. CNC machining is next in line for us. We can already say that Fractory has done a better job at automating the processes live today. And the plan is to continue in the same vein,” says Vares confidently.